Gameday Preview: Blueshirts trying to stop the bleeding

Casey Ippolito
jaredletoandmarcstaal

Twenty-two teams in action on the final Saturday of October. Here’s what’s in store.

Edmonton at Phoenix

There’s a striking contrast between the Oilers and Yotes, who square off for the first time as Pacific division rivals. The Oilers overflow with raw talent, which they’ve yet to translate into W’s, while the Coyotes have found success with fewer stars, thanks to a committed team concept.  Hot starts from Czech center Martin Hanzal (10 points in 11 games) and Mike Ribeiro (9 in 11) have overshadowed the Coyotes’ defensive woes, as they’ve surrendered more than three goals per game, 25th best in the NHL.

The Oilers have already adopted a ‘must-win’ mentality thanks to their lackluster start. (Edmonton Journal)

After a busy schedule to start the year, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett is trying to avoid an early-season burnout. (AZ Central)

Player to Watch: After topping all rookies in goals last year with a better than 30-goal pace, Nail Yakupov is currently on pace to score zero times. The Oilers, like Yakupov, need a jolt of confidence to launch themselves out of last in the Pacific.

New Jersey at Boston

The Devils have just one win in 10 games, which is no surprise when you consider their leading scorer is Marek Zidlicky. If the Devils hope to get by on the back of solid goaltending, they’ll have to do it without Cory Schneider, who didn’t make the trip to Boston because of a lower body injury. The Bruins are trending upward after a last-second (last tenth of a second, actually) win against the Sharks. Loui Eriksson remains sidelined with a concussion after being assaulted by a caveman.

David Krejci’s game-winner against San Jose was the first last-second Bruins goal since 2002.  (Boston Bruins)

Devils D-man Eric Gelinas has impressed since his recent call-up. (NJ Star-Ledger)

Player to Watch: Jarome Iginla’s career-long pattern of slow starts continued this year, but the 36-year-old scored his first goal as a Bruin to help topple the powerhouse Sharks. The B’s will need Iggy’s production with Eriksson out of the lineup.

Pittsburgh at Toronto

Both teams enter the contest after losing Friday night games in which they were favored. The Penguins are fifth in the league with an average of over 32 shots per game, while the Leafs are 27th in shots against, allowing over 34. The ‘Wizard of Cros’ has points in nine of 10 games this year and has 18 overall. The Leafs may need to rely on special teams, as they’ve been better than the Pens on the PP (26.2% to 18.9%) and on the PK (86.4 to 77.8).

The Leafs have made a habit of starting games poorly and they’re not sure why. (Metro News)

The Pens look to avoid their third straight loss. (CBC)

Player to Watch: David Clarkson plays at the Air Canada Centre for the first time since signing a seven-year contract that pays $5.25 million annually. He’ll be looking to win over the home crowd and justify his contract by showing his nasty streak.

San Jose at Montreal

The Sharks and Habs will square off for the first time in nearly two years. San Jose’s offense has been explosive this season, but over the past two games they’ve managed just one goal. But having five players who’ve already reached double-digit point totals, don’t expect the dry spell to last. The Habs have allowed a mere two goals per game, as Carey Price has posted elite numbers (2.13, .936). Price will be tested by a Sharks offense that has managed four goals per game, leading the league with a plus-23 goal differential.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s strong start has him in the Team Canada conversation. (Mercury News)

Habs hope to continue dominant home ways against the Sharks. (CBC)

Player to Watch: 21-year-old Michael Bournival has impressed with five points in seven games and has been told he’ll be sticking with the big club this year, so he’ll look to prove himself as an everyday NHLer after a hot start.

NY Rangers at Detroit

Win or lose, the Rangers will be thrilled to get this one over with. It’s their ninth straight road game, and the road has not been kind to the Blueshirts, who have just two wins to start the year. The Rangers have managed 1.5 goals per game, which won’t get it done against a Wings team with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson off to productive starts. The absences of Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash have hurt the Rangers, who have a league-worst minus-19 goal differential.

Red Wings look for bounce-back performance against the Rangers. (Detroit Free Press)

Coach Alain Vigneault calls on Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard to do more. (NY Daily News)

Player to Watch: He played hardball in contract negotiations over the summer, but Derek Stepan hasn’t yet rewarded Rangers management with a goal. He’s minus-8 and the Rangers have been out-chanced significantly with him on the ice.

Buffalo at Tampa Bay

Jhonas Enroth stole the Sabres a game last night with a 44-save performance against Florida, but they’re in for a tougher test tonight, as the Lightning have only lost to the Penguins and Bruins. Steven Stamkos and Martin St-Louis have led the way offensively (of course they have), and both are among the league leaders in points. Reliability between the pipes has been lacking in Tampa for years, but Ben Bishop has been steady so far (2.53, .915). Though, he’d probably like to forget this.

The Lightning shouldn’t underestimate the Sabres. (NHL)

Player to Watch: Sabres management clearly can’t sell wins, so they’ve elected to sell hope. They have four teenagers with the big club: Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko.

Philadelphia at NY Islanders

The Flyers are a mess. Must be their goaltending. Right? Sure, Steve Mason is 2-5-0, but he’s posted a GAA of 2.17 and a SP of .930. For once, it seems goaltending can’t be blamed for what ails the Flyers. The problem has been offense. Brayden Schenn leads the team with five points, while no other Flyer has more than three. Not even Claude Giroux, who probably went seventh overall in your hockey pool but has managed just three assists. The Islanders are a team on the rise, beating Pittsburgh last night and holding on to third in the Metropolitan division.

Flyers power play is crippling their offense. (Philly.com)

Player to Watch: It’s Mark Streit’s first game against the team that dealt him over the summer. Philly’s power play is sputtering at an 8.1 conversion rate, and Streit’s presence on the point will be instrumental if the Flyers are to turn things around.

Winnipeg at Dallas

Dallas took home the first matchup between these two clubs on the strength of four points from Tyler Seguin. The young trio of Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alex Chaisson have led the way, as expected, each scoring at a point-per-game average, while the Jets are getting solid output from their key forwards. The issue for Winnipeg, as usual, has been keeping pucks out, as Ondrej Pavelec’s GAA sits at 3.06. The Jets have lost three straight after falling 3-2 in OT to Nashville. The winner of tonight’s game will propel themselves to the .500 mark.

Jets need ‘poetic justice’ to survive road trip. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Stars shuffle defense and put Goligoski back in vs. Jets. (Dallas News)

Player to Watch: Tyler Seguin’s best performance of the season came against the Jets, so he’ll be licking his lips at the chance to further inflate Pavelec’s GAA.

Minnesota at Chicago

It’s the first matchup of the season between Central division rivals who faced off in the first round of the playoffs last year. Chicago surrendered six goals to the Lightning in a 6-5 OT loss on Thursday, so look for a focused defensive effort from Joel Quenneville’s squad. Josh Harding has been magnificent this season (5-2-1, 1.00, .953), but he was injured Thursday against the Hurricanes. It will be up to Niklas Backstrom to backstop the Wild tonight.

Wild enter first meeting with Blackhawks since 2013 playoffs. (StarTribune)

Handzus, Smith to sit as Blackhawks battle Wild. (NBC Chicago)

Player to Watch: With minute-muncher Jonas Brodin out of the lineup with a broken cheekbone, expect to see Ryan Suter on the ice even more than his league-leading average of 29:07.

St Louis at Nashville

The Blues have won six of the past seven against the Preds, and they’ll be enter this one having gone to overtime Friday night against Vancouver. Alex Steen has emerged offensively with 13 points in eight games, while Jaroslav Halak has won himself the No. 1 job with five wins in seven games. Seth Jones has played like a veteran, showing poise playing big minutes and a spot on the first power play unit with Shea Weber.

Preds need points against Blues. (The Tennessean)

Surging Predators try to stay hot. (News Observer)

Player to Watch: Can Carter Hutton shoulder the load in goal in the absence of Pekka Rinne? So far he’s been stellar, and he’ll be tested by a St. Louis power play clicking at 28.6%.

Washington at Calgary

Everyone’s talking about Ovechkin, but the Capitals are just 5-5. Ovie has scored a third of his team’s goals, and the Caps are relying too heavily on their 29.7% power play. However, that deadly PP may carry them to victory tonight, as Calgary’s penalty kill is second worst in the league at 72.7. The Flames went 1-4 on a five-game road trip which came to a close with a 5-1 loss to Dallas. Tonight’s game is their first of three straight at home against Eastern Conference visitors.

Flames feeling half-empty or half-full? (Calgary Sun)

Ovechkin and the Caps bring scoring binge to Calgary. (CBC)

Player to Watch: Who else but Ovie? He has 32 goals in his past 31 regular season games, dating back to March 17. With 10 in 10 to start the year, he’s given himself a shot at reaching or surpassing his career-high of 65 that he scored in 2007-08.